Budget Sprinkle Lists Diminish Confidence in the Budget Process and Should Be Discontinued
It has become routine for the budget conference process to end with each chamber accepting the other’s supplemental funding list, or sprinkle list, worth more than an average of $120 million for each chamber – or a combined average of $285 million – annually over the last ten years. These lists are developed and agreed to in private by House and Senate leadership, and without any public debate or discussion. In the 2022 Regular Session, the House Sprinkle List included funding for 62 projects worth $257.1 million and the Senate added $511.8 million in funding for 161 projects. This means $768.9 million in hard-earned taxpayer dollars were spent as almost an afterthought, after all the various budget areas had been “closed-out.” In the last 10 years, these Sprinkle Lists have funded 1,718 projects worth $2.85 billion (see Table 1). The 2022 Regular Session was a record year based on the amount of money the House and Senate added to the budget through the sprinkle lists. (see Figure 1).
Due to this lack of transparency and open public deliberation, the conference should be used exclusively to compromise when the two chambers disagree on funding levels and to decide whether an item funded by only one chamber should be included in the final state budget. This should not be the time to fund new items, particularly funding that goes to a specified private entity or narrow geographic location.
This should not be done through Sprinkle Lists. The practice of spending hundreds of millions of dollars, largely on members’ pet projects, as an afterthought, should be discontinued.